Journey to the edge of reason The life of Kurt Gödel

Stephen Budiansky

Book - 2021

"The first major biography of the logician and mathematician whose incompleteness theorems helped launch a modern scientific revolution. Nearly a hundred years after its publication, Kurt Gödel's famous proof that every mathematical system must contain propositions that are true--yet never provable--continues to unsettle mathematics, philosophy, and computer science. Yet unlike Einstein, with whom he formed a warm and abiding friendship, Gödel has long escaped all but the most casual... scrutiny of his life. An intimate portrait of the scientific and intellectual circles in prewar Vienna and a vivid re-creation of the early days of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, Journey to the Edge of Reason is the first biography to fully draw upon Gödel's voluminous letters and writings--including a never-before-transcribed shorthand diary of his most intimate thoughts--to explore his profound intellectual friendships, his moving relationship with his mother, his troubled yet devoted marriage, and the debilitating bouts of paranoia that ultimately took his life. It illuminates the mind-bending implications of Gödel's revolutionary ideas for philosophy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and man's place in the cosmos"--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 510.92/Godel (NEW SHELF) Due Jun 3, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Biography
Biographies
Published
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company [2021]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 350 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 313-325) and index.
ISBN
9781324005445
1324005440
Main Author
Stephen Budiansky (author)
  • Prologue
  • Dreams of an empire
  • Alle echten Wiener sind aus Brünn
  • Vienna 1924
  • Floating in midair
  • Undecidable truths
  • The scholar's paradise
  • Fleeing the Reich
  • New worlds
  • Plato's shadow
  • "If the world is constructed rationally"
  • Appendix: Gödel's proof.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Co-recipient of the Albert Einstein Award in 1951, Kurt Gödel was a close companion of the genius for whom the award was named. However, the brilliant mathematician who walked by Einstein's side through the streets of Princeton, NJ, has only now received the biographical attention he deserves. Budiansky exposes the social and political influences that shaped the life of this brilliant Austrian mathematician, illuminating particularly the dramatic events that caused him to flee a country losing its soul to Nazi barbarians to join Einstein in the exclusive Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. But Budiansky's greater accomplishment is that of penetrating a mind that reoriented the entire mathematical world with the famous incompleteness theorems. Readers come to understand why, while others interpreted Gödel's theorems as a devastating blow to mathematical ambitions, Gödel himself interpreted them as a guarantee that the human spirit could forever explore Platonic truth. Readers also learn about Gödel's impressive but less-well-known breakthroughs in understanding infinity and advancing computer science. Finally, it is not Budiansky's mathematical acumen but rather his emotional empathy that carries readers into the brilliant theorist's fatal descent into the depression and paranoia that cause irrational self-starvation. A portrait remarkable both for its intellectual depth and for its compassion. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Historian Budiansky (Oliver Wendell Holmes) recaps the revolutionary work of mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) in this probing biography. Budiansky details how Gödel showed the limits of logic in math with his work, and sailed past those limits in his delusions, outlining Gödel's theories on the most abstract of questions along the way. Most notable is Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which proved in the early 1930s that every mathematical system contains statements that are true yet not provable; this refuted fashionable "positivist" philosophical arguments that all truths could be found by empirical observation. Budiansky situates Gödel's work in a vivid panorama of his intellectual circle in Vienna between the wars, and explores the metaphysical conclusions Gödel drew from it—a Platonist belief that ideas have an independent existence, and that there is a spiritual order to the universe. Budiansky's account of Gödel's later years at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study shows the logician's passion for unprovable truths souring into paranoia, including a persistent conviction that his food was poisoned (his wife sometimes had to taste it to demonstrate otherwise), and he ultimately starved himself to death. Budiansky keeps things accessible—an appendix, for example, explains Gödel's proofs concisely­—and Gödel comes through as a brilliant though tragic figure in Budiansky's richly descriptive prose. This captivating portrait of a great if neurotic mind hits the mark . Photos. (May) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"The first major biography of the logician and mathematician whose incompleteness theorems helped launch a modern scientific revolution. Nearly a hundred years after its publication, Kurt Gèodel's famous proof that every mathematical system must contain propositions that are true-yet never provable-continues to unsettle mathematics, philosophy, and computer science. Yet unlike Einstein, with whom he formed a warm and abiding friendship, Gèodel has long escaped all but the most casual scrutiny of his life. An intimate portrait of the scientific and intellectual circles in prewar Vienna and a vivid re-creation of the early days of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, Journey to the Edge of Reason is the first biography to fully draw upon Gèodel's voluminous letters and writings-including a never-before-transcribed shorthand diary of his most intimate thoughts-to explore his profound intellectual friendships, his moving relationship with his mother, his troubled yet devoted marriage, and the debilitating bouts of paranoia that ultimately took his life. It illuminates the mind-bending implications of Gèodel's revolutionary ideas for philosophy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and man's place in the cosmos"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Nearly a hundred years after its publication, Kurt Gödel’s famous proof that every mathematical system must contain propositions that are true—yet never provable—continues to unsettle mathematics, philosophy, and computer science. Yet unlike Einstein, with whom he formed a warm and abiding friendship, Gödel has long escaped all but the most casual scrutiny of his life.Journey to the Edge of ReasonJourney to the Edge of Reason

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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